Is SEO Still Important Today or in the Future?

By Hector E. Cisneros

English: Meta search engine Français : metamoteur
English: Meta search engine Français : metamoteur (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
SEO is a term that is bandied about as if it were the holy grail of Search Engine Marketing. But what is SEO really? It is optimizing your website? Or, is it optimizing what you post to your web properties? Is it key word sensitive, key phrase-centric or is it something else altogether? My answer to these questions may surprise you. SEO is no longer just one thing. It's not just optimizing your website for proper Meta tags and matching content. It has grown to mean so much more. In this article, I discuss how Search Engine Optimization (a.d.a., SEO) has evolved into Search Engine Marketing (a.k.a., SEM). I will discuss how what was once a single-faceted injection has evolved into a multifaceted ongoing process. In this article you will find information on how a company can improve its search ranking, specific methods to follow that will insure a strong ranking position. Best of all, you can accomplish all this without resorting to tricks, gimmicks or deception that tries to bypass the search engine ranking systems.

What was SEO Like in 1999? 

A little over a decade ago, achieving search ranking was relatively simple. You selected a keyword for the domain name, created your web page, selected a keyword for the page title, and added the desired keywords to your content. Then you made sure you correctly filled out Meta and ALT tags and then posted your web pages to the top 100 search engines and directories. If you chose your key words carefully, you soon showed up on page one of Yahoo, AltaVista, Net Taxi and other search engines.

Photo Credit:
Back then it was relatively easy for a skilled webmaster to get on page one for several reasons. First, most  These were the primary criteria for achieving high ranking before 2000. The problem was that clever web page programmers (black hat types) soon figured out tricks, gimmicks and deceptive practices to trick the search engines into thinking that their sites had a lot of the right keywords (key word stuffing) and large numbers of back links, (via backlink farms). This led to an escalating war between the search engines and black hat programmers. The war (still ongoing), has culminated in Google figuring out how to detect most of these tricks and punishing the perpetrators and their clients.  Google has also become the dominant search engine.
people were too lazy to do the work listed above. Second, there were fewer websites back then ,which meant much less competition for your site. Third, by posting to the top 100 search engines and directories, you created a lot of back links to your site.

Today Google is mostly concerned with quality content, delivered on a regular and timely basis. This content needs to be diverse in format (web pages, blogs, social media, videos, etc.) and it needs to be highly relevant to the key word or phrase that is being searched. Today if you meet these criteria, you will do well in organic search, (assuming your competition is not better at it than you are).

Search Engine Marketing Gap
Search Engine Marketing Gap (Photo credit: Intersection Consulting)

Is On-site SEO Obsolete? 

I am often asked is web page optimization important anymore? My answer is yes. Google and all other search engines care about properly formatted and content corrected Meta and ALT tags. Although this only accounts for a much smaller portion of the overall score, It is still very important. If these on-page information markers are incorrect, or don’t match the content, Google may ignore or misinterpret your content and thus rank you low or incorrectly rank you. Either way it means bad news for your website. Make sure your “on page” Meta and ALT tags are formatted and match the content of your keywords.  Otherwise, you will never rank high.

How Does SEM Differ From SEO?

Search Engine Marketing is a much more comprehensive term than Search Engine Optimization. It refers to the active keyword/phrase optimization of all your web properties. This includes all websites on-page tags plus optimizing all your blog posts, all your social network posts, any PR posts, all podcasts and video posts.  In essence, S.E.M. encompasses all web postings of any kind. Yet it also means more than this. S.E.M. is also a methodology designed to meet the search content requirements that provide high ranking. In other words, your methodology is predicated on doing what the search engines want, not trying to trick them into giving you better ranking. Today it means giving Google what it wants since Google comprises about 91% of all search activity.

English: The three biggest web search engines
English: The three biggest web search engines (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Golden Rule – They  Who Own the Gold Make the Rules 

Your strategy needs to take Google’s dominance of the search market into account. We often call Google the 800-pound gorilla in the room. And you know the joke about what do you feed an 800-pound gorilla? Anything it wants, whenever it wants!

What Does Google Want? 

If you go to Google's webmaster YouTube channel and watch the weekly videos posted by their webmaster he tells you what’s important. Basically Google is looking to determine who is serving the public the best content for any specific search. The googlebots evaluate your content for relevancy, usefulness, quality, consistency, timeliness, connectedness, positive feedback and diversity of format, (web pages, blogs, social media, videos etc.).  These are highly sophisticated bots.

Why is Gaming the System Like Playing Russian Roulette?

Gone are the days when you could easily trick the search engines in order to get a high ranking. Google has employed a multi-tier approach to detect most trickery. Their new algorithms have eliminated the advantages of keyword stuffing, duplicate sites, backlink farms and many other deceptive practices. On top of that they have hired a hoard of page evaluators that actually check out your pages, posts and back links. Now if Google catches you cheating they will downgrade your ranking, (at the least) or remove you from search altogether, (at the worst). Cheating Google no longer means just a slap on the wrist. It can mean banishment from the world wide web altogether!

Non Profit Content Marketing Strategy
Non Profit Content Marketing Strategy (Photo credit: Russ_Henneberry)

What is Content Marketing and How Can it Help Your Ranking? 

Today content is king. If you can provide useful, meaningful, entertaining, funny or enjoyable content, you have a leg up on the competition. Content marketing is the active deployment of quality content on a regular basis designed to attract and satisfy the audience. This is similar to the way that TV used to provide programming as a means of dominating the media of its day. (That was before the advent of the 4-minute commercial break.) Our company helps clients build their audience by providing multiple daily social media posts to multiple social networks. These clients also receive weekly blog posts, vlogs (video blogs), Web TV show episodes, online newsletters and PR posts, every week of the year. Now I am not saying that every client of ours has the budget or inclination for this kind of effort. On the contrary most do not. However, it is the only way to make Google happy in the face of stiff competition. On top of this effort, we teach our clients  how to solicit and receive more positive testimonials, reviews and referrals from their customers. We have even created a proprietary methodology called Team Tech that helps clients aggregate their efforts by helping each other. Cooperation is a good thing online.

Smile, you're on Candid Camera!
Smile, you're on Candid Camera! (Photo credit: ucumari)

What is Mixed Media and How Can it Make the Gorilla Smile at You? 

A decade ago posting a website was more than enough. Today the internet audience is far more tech savvy, sophisticated and has much higher expectations. People have always preferred pictures over words. Today this is also true for web content. People prefer videos the most, pictures second and words third. If you have a video on page one above the fold, it is the most likely to be clicked on. We know that statistically, videos will receive 80% of all clicks if they are highly visible. However, videos are not the be all end all. Blog posts with their capability to provide multimedia content can also garner a strong position in Google rankings. The same is true for social media posts that have a high sharing factor (gone viral). Google also loves web pages that have received lots of positive ratings (especially Google Local or Map pages with Google +1 ratings and four or more stars). On top of this, all your postings can contain multimedia elements. Your blogs, social and directory posts can all contain links to videos, pictures and other content rich sites. Adding these elements can increase their click through rate by more than 30%!

Key word: students!
Key word: students! (Photo credit: vanhookc)
How Do You Determine the Best Keywords to Target?

Most companies begin the process of website design by picking a name that reflects the company's image. We suggest that instead the process should start by using Google’s Keyword Tool to discover what people are entering most often as key words. Once you know what the best long tail keywords are you can design your strategy around those keywords and phrases. The domain, page title, and content can all reflect the relevant key phrase. By doing this you will start your web presence with a strong keyword foundation. The rest is up to you. If you give Google what it wants these optimized pages will do well. Remember this is not a set it and forget it process. Ongoing content must also be provided or you will never rank high. The only exception to this is if you have an extremely unique, patented product or service that has broad brand name recognition. Only if you have little or no competition will you be able to get by with your website alone.

Press Release SEO Example
Press Release SEO Example (Photo credit: w2scott)
Are Digital Press Releases Worth the Money?

There is a lot of buzz about digital press releases today. These news releases usually garner strong page one ranking especially under the news section of Google search. PR receives a lot of play for a short period of time. A news release starts to lose its timeliness within the first 60 days of its release (if not sooner). Compare this to an evergreen blog post, (where the post is based on non-changing principles) in which case, its shelf life, relevance and timeliness could last for years. Digital PR has a place in today’s multimedia mix but it’s only one way to please the gorilla.

In this article I discussed where search engine optimization (SEO) started and how it has evolved into search engine marketing, (SEM). I have covered how search has changed in many ways in the last decade, the importance of Google becoming the dominant player in search today and discussed several multimedia strategies to make Google happy. These methods all will help you reach a strong search engine position. Follow these methods and you will be successful in your efforts to get on page one. Try and trick Google and you may draw the ire of a very angry gorilla.

That's my opinion. I look forward towards reading yours.

If you like this article, you can find more by typing “black hat” or "SEO" in the search box at the top left of this blog. If you found this article useful, share it with your friends, families and co-works. If you have a comment related to this article, leave it in the comment sections below.  If you would like a free copy of our book, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century," fill out the form below.

Hector Cisneros is COO and director of Social Media Marketing at Working the Web to Win, an award-winning Internet marketing company based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also co-host of the weekly Internet radio show, "Working the Web To Win" on, which airs every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern. Hector is a syndicated writer and published author of “60 Seconds to Success.”

Is it Still Possible to Make Money Online?

English: MOL AccessPortal Offical Logo with Ta...
English: MOL AccessPortal Offical Logo with Tagline Money Online (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The concept of making money online is nothing new.  It’s what drove most of us onto the internet in the first place.  Back in the good old days before Google more or less monopolized search, there were real opportunities to grab the top slots on a number of search engines (some in as little as 24 hours), create an eCommerce site and get to it.  However, the game has changed to the point where there are now more than 300 million websites online with 130,000 new sites being spawned daily.  And they all want to be on page one of Google.  

While you can buy your way into the game with Pay-Per-Click campaigns, many people quickly find out that in many cases generating a click doesn’t mean generating a sale.  As a result you can blow through your advertising budget on any number of search engines, social networks and video portals without turning a profit.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that there’s more than one way to skin a search engine.  

Other Nontraditional Routes to Search Engine Page One

Websites aren’t the only thing displayed on page one of the world’s most popular search engine.  Videos, blog posts and social posts can also find their way onto the first page for those who know how.  Just as with websites, mixed media can also be optimized, particularly if you employ other Google properties to display your media. 

Got Video?   

YouTube is owned by Google.  When you do a search on Google more often than not you will find a YouTube listing on Page One.  The listing leads to a YouTube video that has been optimized for Google.  While the googlebots can’t view your video, they can see the title, text, backlinks and keywords that wrap the video.  Savvy marketers have been using this for years to jump from YouTube to Google.  Better still is the fact that there will only be one or two videos on any given page and this could actually be more advantageous than having your website on the same page. 

Blogger is Google’s Free Blogging Portal

Just as with YouTube, properly optimized blogs can and sometimes do get placed on page one of Google.  Just as with video, the post and title need to be optimized so the bots will deem your post worthy of inclusion on Page One.  It also doesn’t hurt to get your friends and family to read, comment on and re-post your blog posts. homepage, nice UI homepage, nice UI (Photo credit: Lloyd Dewolf)
Then there’s social networks.  While Facebook is currently the world’s most popular social network on the planet, Google+ is the only one owned and operated by guess who?  While some people have referred to G+ as a virtual ghost town, a number of savvy online marketers have used Google’s social network to leverage page one results.  

Being on Page One May Not be Enough to Ensure Financial Success

Sorry to say it but being on page one, even at the top of the page is not enough to ensure success online.  It’s only a starting point.  Due to the fact that there are hundreds of millions of sites, people have become kind of jaded online.  That is to say that unlike a few years ago, most people are not going to take the time to click around your 32 page website to decide whether they should do business with you.  In fact, statistically speaking, you only have on average two minutes to dangle the bait and reel in the fish.  And if your offer isn’t all that appealing, then your results are not going to be anything to write home about.

 This is Why They Call it Online Marketing

ppc-keyword-research-strategies (Photo credit: Search Influence)
Once you have satisfied the online side of the equation by generating a highly visible link on a search term that contains a great deal of traffic targeted to your product or service, then it’s time to put on your marketing hat.  More experienced internet marketers won’t even start a campaign until they have tested keywords, offers and results via some sort of pay-per-click campaign.  Spending a few hundred bucks to make sure you are going to succeed before spending months to generate organic results isn’t just a good idea.  It’s the only way to go if you are looking to convert cash to clicks.  It is also the best way to adjust your site’s look, feel and offer to maximize your return.

All too many people still subscribe to the Field of Dreams form of online marketing.  You know, “Build it and they will come.”  While they may come, that doesn’t mean that they will buy.  If they don’t buy, don’t blame the medium, whether search engine, social network or video portal.  Blame your offer.  Unless you have an exclusive way to solve a problem or save people money, this means that there is competition.  Competition is easy to find online, just google it. 

Before You Start

monopoly-e-commerce (Photo credit: danielbroche)
Before you start spending time and money constructing a website, shooting video or blogging, you need to see what the competition is offering for similar products or services.  If your product or service costs more and offers less, guess what? You had better start rethinking your concept for a successful launch.  This doesn’t mean that you have to give away the farm to bag sales online.  But you definitely have to offer at least a perceived value that is of equal or greater value than the competition.  As an example, a friend of mine ran a highly successful site for a number of years that sold plants.  The way he beat the competition was not by offering the lowest prices.  Instead he offered the longest guarantee that stated that if his plant died up to two years after the purchase he would replace it at no charge.   He told me that less than one percent of his customers ever took him up on this offer.  As a result he was able to sell five figures worth of plants month in and month out.

Other Partners to Find Online Sales

A number of other successful online merchants have found online gold by partnering up with eBay and/or Amazon.  Especially if your business is retail in nature, either of these two mammoth online sites can give you quick access to a huge user base and simplified eCommerce solutions that are tailor made to jump you from retail to etail in a hurry.  That doesn’t mean that these portals are the best or indeed the only way to get into the game, since they both charge fees for promoting and/or selling your products.  But they are another way to buy into the game.

English: Amazon Kindle wordmark.
English: Amazon Kindle wordmark. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
While there are no guarantees that your online store will make money in the short run, it will most definitely burn less money than a brick and mortar store, since you won’t have to hire more employees, invest in expensive displays and signage, or worry about the landlord doubling the rent.  The bottom line is that if you are serious about breaking out of your local market and selling nationwide, you need to be prepared to spend the time and money to test the water, build your brand and be realistic about your results as you build your online store.  If you can work out the bugs and find a way to turn browsers into buyers, you could find yourself wondering why you didn’t think of this concept years before.  

If you like this article, you can find more by typing “robots” or "artificial intelligence" in the search box at the top left of this blog. If you found this article useful, share it with your friends, families and co-works. If you have a comment related to this article, leave it in the comment sections below.  If you would like a free copy of our book, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century," fill out the form below.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Since 1995, Carl Weiss has been helping clients succeed online.  He owns and operates several online marketing businesses, including Working the Web to Win and Jacksonville Video Production. He also co-hosts the weekly radio show, "Working the Web to Win," every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern on